Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter in So Cal

Some of you may be asking, "Do they HAVE winter in Los Angeles?" Good question. I'm learning it comes in the form of a "rainy season." I thought I'd share some fun cultural differences for this Alaskan transplant in So Cal this winter.

Last week Monday they closed I-5 at our exit due to snow about 10 miles north. We live in Castaic a small town trucker stop. I happened to be driving home about 10 p.m. that night from a women's guest speaker deal at a friend's house. By that time there were 18 wheelers parked all along the shoulder of I-5 for about 5-7 miles down from our exit. It was NUTS! When I got off on my exit (the last exit open) there were hundreds of 18 wheelers parked EVERYWHERE. It was something out of a movie. Trucks were parked facing each other in all directions in the MIDDLE of the road! I could barely drive into our apartment parking lot. The next morning I got out just before they re-opened the highway and 200 + 18 wheelers made a mass exodus out of Castaic. Winter in Southern California.

A couple days later at work a co-worker came up to me in the lounge to show me a picture his son from San Fran emailed his I-phone. He was so excited to show me this picture saying, "Check out what my son emailed me this morning from San Fransico!" The look of surprise and confusion on my face caused him to respond, "I know, crazy! It was 40 degrees this morning in San Fran. Can you imagine?" My look of surprise and confusion came from processing that the temperature in his son's car said 40 degrees ABOVE zero and I wondered, "Is that cold?" I just nodded and said, "Wow!" Not for the reasons he thought I was saying wow. Winter in Southern California.

Another difference is the rain. The pull out snow plows, no lie, to "plow" the water on some parts of the interstates and highways so roads are not too slippery. Plow water?? Really? Hmmmm, and they are experiencing a deficit in the state budget? I can't imagine. Recess is indoor as well as lunch. All activities are outdoor in CA b/c 99% of school days are . . . sunny. Kids are wearing down coats and boots to school now. The funny part is by 3:00 p.m. when school gets out it is 60-70 degrees most days. I remember having outdoor recess in elementary school unless it was 10 below. If is was 9 below we went out, no if's, an's or but's about it! Winter in Southern California.

The sad part of it all? I've adjusted to southern weather being out of AK 3 years now (part of my time in South Carolina). The rainy days here DO feel cold to me and I even used my umbrella this weekend when it was sprinkling! I used to go running in shorts and a T-shirt in 50 degree rain in AK! I'm going to be in for a rude awakening next winter when we're back in Alaska!!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Christmas trees

notice the JD stocking under the bar area . . . thanks Burdine cousins, a perfect wedding gift!

a festive table runner for our coffee table

Mistletoe bears that we got on our honeymoon in Denali and the cinnamon pine cones

"O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches . . ."

Ben LOVES colored lights so they boarder the bar area and light most of our living room too, I love that he enjoys decorating :)

This past Saturday Ben and I went out and bought our first Christmas tree together. He was determined to get a real tree and the only option other than Home Depot was to drive north about an hour and cut one down in a "forested" area . . . desert. I was all for Home Depot easy out being that we're not in AK yet so we did it.

I have to say Home Depot's stock impressed me. This is one of the fullest live trees I've seen in a long time. It's a Douglas Fir . . . I highly recommend them if you're on the hunt for a good live tree. We got it early b/c Ben leaves for WA December 11th and I leave a week later when I finish work on the 19th so we wanted to be able to enjoy it awhile.

I've also been enjoying decorating the house with additional bits of holiday. I highly recommend adding cinnamon pine cones to your Christmas decor, they make your house smell festive and fresh!

Thanks mom and dad for the Christmas packages! They came ON Saturday while we were decorating, perfect timing. We hung both ornaments on our tree along with one we just got. The tree is a little sparse decoration but I've got 31 years of Hallmark ornaments waiting for us back in Alaska. Can't wait to see our tree all decked out next year!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pizza competition

Round one of the evening's taste testing

Our official ballots

Let the cooking begin!

Mark and Ben cooking the meat for their pizzas

Sarah and Ben working on their own pizzas

sculpting our Pilsbury dough

the first place team hard at work with Thanksgiving leftovers

first pizza in . . . we had the oven working over time that night

Ben and my pig pizza

Larry giving his "winners" speech

Of course there were activities and "events" planned throughout our Kroon Thanksgiving. One was an annual kickball game. This year it was rather humorous. No team scored so we "tied" at zero zero. It was fun to play though. The last time I remember playing kickball was in middle school. Good times.

Sarah and Teagen came up with a new idea/tradition they want to continue to have a home made pizza competition. SO, Friday night we all went to the grocery store to get secret ingredients for our pizzas and then took over the kitchen making 7 pizzas. It was crazy, crowded and a blast! Most of us worked in teams. The pizza's were scored on three areas, presentation, originality and taste. Ben and I made a pig shaped pizza with pepperoni, yellow peppers, and olives (for the mud). Ben Kroon made an Italian sausage and veggie pizza, Sarah Kroon made a cheeseburger pizza that took second place. Marlene and Sarah's mom made the first place winner and most original unique pizza by far. They used Thanksgiving leftovers to make a cream cheese, turkey and cranberry pizza. Surprisingly it was REALLY good, more of a desert pizza flavor but very tasty. Mark and Joani made a chicken and some kind of specialty cheese pizza that was fabulous (my favorite) and took third place. Larry and Brittany pulled up the rear with a Papa Murphy's pepperoni pizza and BBQ chicken wings as an appetizer. We had Henry Weinhard's root beer to wash it all down.

Larry was hillarious. He had a speak all written out on his napkin ready to go for first place and gave it anyway even after taking last. We were STUFFED to the rim with pizza by the end of the night! Ben and I took off back for home shortly after. We were glad to be a part of the first annual pizza making competition. Great idea guys!

Thanksgiving blessings!

The Kroon crew

Ella on the trampoline (Ben and Sarah's little girl)

Allison (Mark and Joani's little girl, she was 2 weeks old at our wedding)

little Miss Allison with her looong eyelashes, she is a cutie!

Mark, Joani, Ben and me

Ben and Sarah

Teags and Britt being . . . Teags and Britt :)

Grandpa Kroon and Ella

Grandma Kroon and Allison

Bean bag toss, Ben and Ben were a team and Teags and Brittany were a team

A group of us playing a new game called "Bang" it was addicting! We played for about 5 hours!

This Thanksgiving was filled with blessings. The biggest blessing and change is it was our first Thanksgiving married!!

On our way to the Kroon's to celebrate the day I got a text from Ashley Mehringer (Ryan) saying that our friend Amy (from a previous post) had her baby boy. Over the course of Amy's pregnancy doctors said they suspected their boy would be born with Down's Syndrome or hydrocephalas (water on the brain). We all have been praying A LOT for a healthy baby for Amy and Bart. We found out that little Clive was born 2 weeks early 100% healthy! A HUGE Thanksgiving blessing!

The day continued to be filled with blessings as we got to Ben and Sarah Kroon's and started a two day reunion. Joani, Mark and Allison were down from Oregon. Brittany, Lary and Marlene came down from Alaska and Teagen drove over for the day too! We had a big Thanksgiving feast and party at Sarah Kroon's parents place in San Pedro (Southern LA). Larry said part way through the day, "Who would have guessed 10 years ago we would all be celebrating Thanksgiving together in Southern, CA?" It IS interesting where life takes you and how paths continue to cross. This was definitely a memorable 1st Thanksgiving together. Thanks Kroon's for inviting us to celebrate with you!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Christmas Carol

This week Ben and I had a date night and went to see the new Disney 3D version of A Christmas Carol. I have to admit I was disappointed by it. The computer graphics were amazing but the humor was a little crass and it was pretty scary for being a cartoon/kids movie. I felt heavy at the end, not what I expected. There was a kid behind us during the movie that cried off and on throughout it because it was too scary. Also, for those who don't know it's in 3D so it costs about $5 more than a regular movie. I would not recommend spending the time and money to go and see it. Check it out when it comes out on DVD and watch it before you let your kids watch it, there are some pretty scary parts.

baby shower

this is not from the shower it's just a fun pic of me and Amy at church a couple of Sunday's ago :)

Ashley, Amy, me

Amy and Ashley

Tonight Ashley Mehringer and I carpooled to a baby shower for our friend Amy Horton. Amy is one of my closer friends in CA. Our husbands used to be former roommates early on in seminary and now they are expecting their first child. Thought I'd post some pics from the evening. Amy and Bart (her husband) are expecting a boy December 8th. Ashley Mehringer, for those Alaskans that know her is expecting a girl in mid March. It's baby central down here!

One of the women that helped host the shower had her husband (a professional chef and cateror) come and cater the whole thing. We had AMAZING food!


Last Friday Ben decided to surprise me when I got home from work with a homemade hot meal on the table. He called his mom and got one of his favorite recipes from her that morning and had it all planned out how the evening would go. The only glitch was that I got home an hour earlier than I had planned on getting home so dinner was not "on the table" as he had envisioned it but he did go grocery shopping and was excited to make a hot meal for me to say "thanks" for the meals I make throughout the week. It made my night! It was such a blessing and an act of love to come home at the end of a busy week and have him get a delicious hot meal together.

What did he make? Rigatoni . . . rigatoni pasta with spaghetti sauce, chunks of pepperoni and fresh mozzerella. He also bought garlic bread to go with it to have a "two course" meal. Whenever I make a meal that has more than one item (i.e. meat with a veggie and bread or a veggie and rice) he says I made a three course meal. He comes from a simple bachelor menu so I let him go ahead and think that I am really outdoing myself by making "three" and "four course" meals. :)I am a huge fan of pasta so this was right up my alley and is now a new favorite of both of ours. I had never had this particular recipe before and it was great! I truly am married to a GREAT man. He treats me like a queen. We both laughed at the pictures because they don't do it justice but trust me, it was a great meal!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


a sampling of my final product, nice orange color frosting don't you think? :)

Candy Corn . . . are like Twinkies to me, you don't eat them for months (or years in the case of Twinkies) and then you take a handful to remember what their sugary goodness is like. It only takes a few and you remember why you don't eat them on a regular basis, toooooooo sweet! Twinkies are just an all around gut bomb. How did I LOVE them when I was a child??

We're having a "fall festival" at both of the schools I work at tomorrow. It's kind of an alternative to full fledged Halloween. A bunch of teachers were asked to sign up to provide baked treats for an auction so I volunteered. The treat we make is supposes to have a fall/Halloween theme so I decided to go with sugar cookies. Somewhere along the way in college I bought some Halloween cookie cutters so I went to town tonight.

It was a little strange because I think this is the first time I have made sugar cookies (decorating the whole 9 yards) outside of Christmas baking. It's an Eller family tradition to make Christmas sugar cookies on Christmas Eve and watch "It's a Wonderful Life" together. I finished tonight and had the urge to put on "It's a Wonderful Life" a couple holidays early to reminisce. Here's to fall!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

a hunting mishap . . .

WARNING: Mom, you may want to skip this entry. It contains graphic images. :) Just giving you a heads up. This is for all family and friends that want to see evidence of Ben's run in with a deer.

This past Monday Ben took a "short" study break to help a buddy pack out and clean a deer he shot. The deer was about a 5 mile drive in the mountains away from his buddy's house, Jonathan. He figured he'd be gone for about 2 hours and get back home to study in no time. Well, that's not exactly how the afternoon turned out.

Ben got to Jonathan's and they drove out to the spot where he had been hunting. Ben hiked down to the deer and found that it was not actually dead just injured. The front legs were broken and it was stuck in an area of thick brush dying. Neither Ben nor Jonathan, both experienced hunters, had guns just knives to quarter up the deer and pack it out. Ben took it upon himself to knife the deer in the heart/lung area and let it bleed out quickly. No big deal, it was just a deer. As he pinned the antlers down, however, the deer turned his head quick the opposite direction and gored Ben's left calf. The antler poked right through his double lined carhart pants.

It all happened within a matter of seconds so Ben didn't think much of it until he looked down later and saw blood dripping out on his sock and shoe. The inner lining of his pants was rather wet by this time too. Ben and Jonathan went ahead and packed the deer out and drove back to Jonathan's house where Jonathan stitched him up at his kitchen table. No, Jonathan is not a doctor he's just has a kit at home to stitch up his hunting dog when he gets stuck in barbed wire, he figured a leg can't be that much harder. Ben said each stick had a different knot. Jonathan had perfected his stitch knot by the 7th stitch. We have good health insurance through my job but Ben said Stephanie, Jonathan's wife, was offering complimentary juice at their house so how could he pass it up?

Ben called a doctor friend from seminary after the mishap and got a prescription for heavy duty antibiotics to fight infection. The first couple days he walked around the house like a gimp. Now his hobble is less noticeable but he's still pretty tight. He has said you never notice how much you use your calf until you injure it. His doctor friend said he should be back to normal in 4-6 weeks. I think he's planning on cutting the stitches out himself tomorrow night. Not the way I would go about it, but hey, I'm not a man.

Monday, October 19, 2009

life is precious . . .

In my seven years of speech pathology and more than 400 IEP meetings today was the hardest IEP meeting I have been a part of. Right now I work at two schools for an elementary district in Northern Los Angels. One school I'm at I work in two SDC (Special Day Class) programs for children with multiple severe disabilities.

This morning our team had an IEP meeting for a little boy in one of the SDC classes. This particular boy is one of the sweetest students I've ever met. You wouldn't know it by looking at him now but last year this time he was in a typically kindergarten class, walking, talking, making friends like all the other kindergarten students at our school. It was about this time a year ago things started changing for this boy physically and mentally. Within the past 12 months this little boy has changed from a typical K-1 student, talking, playing at recess, making friends, eating and misbehaving like typical kindergarten students do to barely being able to walk, eat and talk. He is nearly nonverbal today.

About a month ago his parents took him to a pediatric neurologist but a formal diagnosis was not given because of extenuating circumstances. For other strange and unusual circumstances his medical diagnosis was actually given this morning at our IEP meeting. These parents were told this morning that their son has a rare aggressive degenerative disease that will eventually lead to death. I had a very difficult time staying composed during our meeting. My heart ached for this couple and their sweet boy who sat next to mom at the meeting rolling his toy bus on the table.

My mind reeled as the meeting went on thinking of all the cases I have worked with over my career. The closest thing I can compare this to was back in college when I had an internship at a long-term care facility on a dementia floor. I worked with two women in particular that left an impression on me. One was in her early 50s and one was in her mid 80s. I wondered then as an eager therapist, "What goals do you set for someone who has a progressive degenerative disease?" With adults fighting dementia and Alzheimer's speech-language goals focus on maintaining memories for as long as possible and creating strategies to maintain those memories. I remember vividly the husbands of these wives coming to visit every day not knowing if their wives would recognize them that day and the joy and tears on the days they did remember their husbands.

Today I set a goal for a little boy who 12 months ago could walk, talk and hang out with friends. Now he can barely babble words. This little boy finds joy in babbling when he has the strength and can use other augmentative devices to communicate wants and needs. When I have my language group in his classroom and we sing songs he lights up like a firefly and gets a huge grin on his face showing his enjoyment and love of music.

Today my perspective changed, or maybe just put back in place. Life isn't always about making a lot of progress, being the best, getting the best grades, having the best kids, being the perfect parent etc. Life is more about making the most of the time we're given. I couldn't help but think during my IEP meeting this morning what this little boy's parents wouldn't given to have 10 more years with their son. His doctors don't know if they will even have 2 more years at this point. Today I was reminded that life is precious.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Ben and I were picking up a couple things at Target this week and came across some good old fashion sugar cereal Boo Berry and Franken Berry. I grew up in ND eating these cereals along with other sugar favorites like Count Chocula, Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs. Just to reminisce about old times we bought a box and to my surprise they're pretty darn good . . . as a desert that is. :)

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Kari, me, Danita in Valdez, AK

Charleston, SC

trip to CA to meet Ben after we got engaged . . . movies and skookies, the way Friday nights were meant to be!

posing at the Getty in LA

Kari and I have been friends since 1998 when I moved to MN to start my speech path program. She has become one of those life long friends that will always be dear to me. We've made some unforgettable memories over the past 11 years . . .

* Roommates in college at St. Cloud State University
* We led Bible studies together through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on campus
* Prayer accountability partners for years even long distant
* Taken MANY road trips all over the country
* Flown to MN, AK, SC, CA back and forth to see each other almost every year since college
* She's been adopted as a surgate daughter into the Eller/Burdine family, my parents email her almost as much as I do
* Kari was my maid of honor in my wedding this past June

I am grateful for friends like Kari where you can always pick up right where you left off even if you haven't called in 2 or 3 months. She has been a blessing in my life! Thanks for the fun week in MN Kari!